asbestos; civil litigation


Originally and for many years, the primary defendants in asbestos cases were companies that mined asbestos or manufactured amphibole-containing thermal insulation. Hundreds of thousands of claims were filed against the major asbestos producers, such as Johns-Manville Corp., Owens Corning Corp., and W.R. Grace & Co. By the late 1990s, asbestos litigation had reached such proportions that the U.S. Supreme Court noted the “elephantine mass” of cases and referred to the litigation as a “crisis.” Mass filings pressured “most of the lead defendants and scores of other companies” into bankruptcy, including virtually all manufacturers of asbestos-containing thermal insulation. Following a 2000–2002 wave of bankruptcies among asbestos manufacturers, plaintiffs’ lawyers began “a search for new recruits to fill the gap in the ranks of defendants.” Many of today’s asbestos defendants are formerly peripheral or new defendants associated with chrysotile-containing products “such as gaskets, pumps, automotive friction products, and residential construction products.” One plaintiffs’ attorney described the asbestos litigation as an “endless search for a solvent bystander.” This Article argues for legislation, such as that enacted in many states, that requires asbestos plaintiffs to pursue quick compensation from the trusts and allows trust-related exposures and compensation to be properly accounted for in asbestos-related personal injury cases. States with substantial asbestos litigation, such as California, Illinois, New York, and Missouri, need the legislation the most.